A University College London scientist has accused US lawyers of misusing his pioneering work in the brain to justify dismantling Raw vs. Wadea landmark provision that legalized abortion nationwide in America.
Giandomenico Iannetti said his research, which used imaging to understand the adult brain’s response to pain, has been misinterpreted to make an anti-abortion argument.
An unprecedented leak of a draft legal opinion last week showed that a majority of Supreme Court justices support dropping Roe v. Wade and ending federal protections for abortions, in a move that could lead to them being banned in 26 states. The court is considering the case, Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationwhich challenges Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Anti-abortion lawyers in this case argued that scientific understanding had evolved since the 1973 court ruling that enshrined the constitutional right to abortion, and it was no longer accurate to say that fetuses could not feel pain before 24 weeks.
Their argument relied heavily on a controversial discussion paper on fetal pain published in Journal of Medical Ethics in 2020 by Dr Stuart Derbyshire, British Associate Professor of Psychology at the National University of Singapore.
The paper claims that some of Iannetti’s research findings suggest that we may not need the cerebral cortex – which is still incomplete in a fetus of less than 24 weeks – to feel pain.
Yanetti, an Italian professor of neuroscience who now leads a lab in Italy but has spent the past 16 years researching at UCL and Oxford University, insists this is an “unjustified leap”.
“My results in no way imply that the cortex is not necessary to feel pain. I feel they have been misinterpreted and used in a very clever way to make a point. It pains me to misinterpret my work and it has become one of the main arguments [the lawyers] made,” he said.
Professor Inetti had no idea the paper was used to justify its dismantling Raw vs. Wade His American colleagues even called him to say they were “shocked” by the way his findings were presented. He has helped academics in the US craft a response to lawyers, but said he feels it is beyond his control and “there is not much I can do to stop people from claiming that my work says something it doesn’t”.
Leading pain scientists and academic medical societies on both sides of the Atlantic are deeply skeptical of the anti-abortion legal argument, and they insist on the international scientific consensus on it. Fetuses cannot suffer from pain For the first few weeks of its existence it remains constant and “indisputable”.
“I thought about this op-ed,” said John Wood, professor of molecular neurobiology at UCLA [by Derbyshire] It was inaccurate. Wood insisted that “all serious scientists” agreed that a fetus doesn’t feel pain until after 24 weeks, “and maybe even then.”
He said the lawyers were right in saying that the science had evolved since 1973, but not in the way they were claiming. “For example, we understand a lot about pain in newborns,” he said. “It is interesting that surgeons who operate on fetuses say there is movement in the surgical intervention from the 36th week.”
Derbyshire said Foreman It is a “resolutely pro-choice”. Insisting he did not go beyond in his paper, he claimed that while Annette’s work had no “direct” relationship to fetal pain, it “disturbed the consensus that the cortex is essential for pain.”
He said, “I honestly don’t see how we can rule out a fetus having a severe pain-like experience. It may be forever unknown, and it wouldn’t be equivalent to what you or I experience, but that doesn’t make it a thing.”
The evidence for fetal pain has not changed since 1973 and remains “irrefutable,” said Professor Vania Abkarian, director of the Center for Pain Research at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who has spent two decades studying pain in humans and animals.
There is no rationale for saying that a fetus can experience pain before 24 weeks. He said the brain’s anatomy was not shaped enough for this to be possible. The fetus is in a state similar to sleeping in the womb.
Abkarian wrote the scientific summary of the Jackson women health The organization’s case, on behalf of organizations including the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in the US and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the UK. He spent months checking all the anti-abortion scientific references in case he missed some serious evidence. He said, “We didn’t.”
Abkarian believes that science has entered into a social and religious battle over abortion in order to play with people’s feelings. “The Mississippi case claimed that the fetus, when aborted, suffers. They claimed that because it was a statement that was too emotionally loaded. But he said that was not true at all.
“The bottom line is that patient health, not unproven theories, should drive important medical decisions,” said Dr. Mira Shah, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, in New York.
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